tv Tavis Smiley PBS August 1, 2012 12:30am-1:00am EDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first a conversation with a nobel prize-winning economist stiglitz.joseph the new book is called the price of inequality. also glen hansard is here. solos out with his first project. we're glad you could join us. coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day
better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: joseph stiglitz is a nobel prize-winning economist and best-selling author who previously joined us on this program for his text, "freefall." his latest is a frank and timely assessment of the state of the american economy. it is called "the price of inequality: how today's divided society endangers our future." he joins us tonight from boston. professor stiglitz, good to have you back on this program, sir. >> nice to be here again. tavis: let me start, if i can, with the news of the day, the elections in greece. your sense of what happened there and how what happened there impacts us here? >> well, it looks like they
pulled back from the brink for the moment, but it doesn't solve anything within europe. the fundamental problem is the euro is a construct that doesn't work and the remedy to the current problems that europe, germany is pushing on spain, greece and other country's austerity is bringing unemployment. 25% unemployment, 50% youth unemployment, making the problems only worse. unfortunately, there's no light at the end of this particular tunnel. tavis: what's the impact gonna be on us? >> well, a european slowdown inevitably will hurt us. the problem in america today is lack of demand. one of the reasons for that lack of demand is our high level of inequality, one of the ways in which we're paying a high price for this inequality.
president obama talked about the possibility of exports filling in the gap, but if our export partners are going into recession -- and europe is already in recession -- it is going to be impossible for us to export our way out of this recession, out of this downturn. that means we will have to turn to what we can do at home. tavis: exporting is one thing. the president, though, has been talking certainly earlier this year about insourcing. what do you make of that and are we having any success with that notion? >> well, it is true that there is some possibility of expanding manufacturing. manufacture has been in a strong decline and there are some indications that it can be slightly arrested. but let's be frank about it. the total number of jobs in the world in manufacturing is going down. we saw it in the success we're having, success in increasing productivity faster than the rate of growth in demand for manufacturing goods.
so global employment in manufacturing is going to go down. our share of that global employment is going to go down and therefore that can't be the basis of the restoration and strength in the american economy. we're going to have to restructure our economy. there's no two ways about it. tavis: restructure in what way? >> well, in the beginning of the 20th century, we went from agriculture to manufacturing. now we're going from manufacturing into a service sector economy, into increasing importance, education, health. we will have to go into design, cultural activities, a whole set of things that will, i think, raise our living standards. but it will be different from the economy of the mid-20th century. tavis: i've asked this question before, professor, but not of a nobel economist. let me ask you. what's the best reason you can give me for why american companies making more money at
home and shipping more jobs abroad are motivated to put americans back to work? if you know that you can do more with less, if you know that what matters most to the shareholder is the bottom line, even a ceo who may be well- intentioned wants to do his part or his company's part to put americans back to work. i can't think of a good reason for doing that. if the bottom line is what you're gonna squeeze out for the shareholder and you've laid all these people off, why ever bring them back? >> well, you're raising a broader issue. a lot of the economic activity in the united states is not designed to increasing the size of the american economic pie. a lot of it is going to efforts that i call ring-seeking, getting a larger share of our economic pie. that's one of the reasons that we have so much inequality today. it is one of the reasons why our economy is not performing so well today.
so that brings us to the issue of how do we change the rules of the game to make a level playing field, to make our economy more efficient and less equal? tavis: how does this talk about deficit reduction get in the way of doing what you suggest ought to be done in this book, "the price of inequality?" >> well, one of the reasons that inequality is so bad is that it breaks down the social consensus, the willingness of the country to work together, including working together to make investments in our common good, investments in infrastructure, in technology and education. one of the things that most americans don't realize has happened is that we are no longer the country with the most opportunity. in fact, it is quite the opposite. we've become the country with the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial countries. the life prospects of an
american are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any of the other advanced industrial countries for which there is data. that is a result, in part at least, of under-investment in education. so by investing more in our country, investing in a whole variety of areas, we will make our economy stronger and we will create more equality. but, unfortunately, the austerity program is going to reduce the amount that's available. when you have the very top 1% have their own schools, their own parks, their own private transportation, they don't depend on this kind of collective investment that the rest of our society requires so much. tavis: i am not pointing the finger, obviously, at you personally or directly, but the argument has been made a
thousand times in part by me and others that a lot of what we are dealing with now vis-à-vis inequality and the price that we're paying for it can be mapped back -- charted back, that is -- to the clinton years. you were offering advice to the clinton years. again, i don't want the finger at you personally. you know exactly who i am talking about. you know exactly those policies that found their way onto the books during the clinton years. so how much culpability to do we want to lay at the feet of a democrat or a democratic administration for the mess we find ourselves in today? >> well, yeah, let's be frank. there is shared responsibility. let me just mention two things that started in the clinton administration or at least continued from bush onto clinton. actually, back to reagan, bush, clinton and then continued and the second bush administration got much worse. let me mention two of them. one of them is the reduction of capital gains taxes. that meant the people at the top were paying much less than people who work for a living. even worse, we tax speculators at a much lower rate than we tax people who work for a living.
the top 1% today pays an average tax rate of 15%, again much lower than those whose income is much lower. and it is not as if they are as a result contributing more to society. in fact, this is leading to the distortion of our society. the other thing that occurred in the clinton administration was the weakening of financial regulation. it continued under the bush administration. again, it is a kind of activity that was more directed at moving money from the bottom to the top, then creating more wealth. predator lending, abusive credit card practices, but meanwhile, the banks weren't lending to create the new jobs that would make a stronger economy. so again, by deregulation, we didn't make a stronger economy. we made a bubble economy that eventually broke and left us in the situation we are in today. tavis: there are those who feel,
professor, that what you're calling for -- that is to say, more equality and growth are oxymoronic. >> the right has tried for a very long time to sell a bill of goods. they tried to say we could only get more equality if we give up on economic growth. they say you shouldn't complain anyway because trickle-down economics where it is you throw money at the top and everybody's gonna benefit. nothing could be farther from the truth. i wish trickle-down economics worked because we've thrown so much money at the top that, if it did work, all of us would be much better off. but, in fact, it has not worked. in fact, people in the middle today are worse off than they were 15 years ago. wealth today in the middle -- data just came out last week -- is today at the level that it was 20 years ago. no progress has been made for the average american. so the fact is, the main argument in my book is that we can have a better economy, a
faster economic growth and a more fairer society with less inequality by getting at some of these distortions in our economy, monopoly power, distorting financial sector, ceos who grab a larger and larger share of the corporate pie. by doing that, we will get a better economy. tavis: but you also argue that the government might have to get involved in redistributing wealth if the markets are too disparate. to someone else's ears, that sounds like class warfare. >> you know, warren buffett said in response to this charge of class warfare, we've had class warfare for a long time and our class has been winning. in my mind, this is not really about class warfare. what we're talking about here is, if the top uses its political influence to get laws and regulations that benefit
them at the rest of our society, that's a fact and that's a distortion to our economy from which we all suffer. when you have a bankruptcy law that says derivatives get first claim, first priority, get paid before anybody else, what you're doing is encouraging derivatives. that means the economy gets distorted towards these speculative activities that led to the aig bail-out of $150 billion dollars. on the other hand, if you have a bankruptcy law that says student loans can't be discharged even in bankruptcy, even if the school doesn't give the education that was promised, then we're making life so much more difficult for those at the bottom, those who are striving to make their way in our rough society. so to me, what we need to do is to take an objective look at our laws and regulations and the way that they are not only advantaging the top, disadvantaging the bottom, but
actually weakening our economy. tavis: finally here, i've argued that poverty -- an issue that you talk about in this text, "the price of inequality" -- i've argued that poverty threatens our very democracy long-term. is that too strong a claim? >> oh, i think you're absolutely right. i mean, if our society is gonna work, we're gonna have to work together and that means you cannot have the extremes, the extremes either at the top or the extremes at the bottom. of course, poverty is what we call the extremes at the bottom. poverty has been growing in the united states. now i was in india not long ago and across their front page was the story about how one out of seven americans are on food stamps, one out of seven americans are facing insecurity, going to bed at least once a month hungry not because they're on a diet, but because they can't afford food. they were so interested and the reason they put it on the front page was they could not believe
that here this rich society could not provide food security, could not provide food for all americans. our failure there is undermining, i believe, our future. tavis: the latest book from joseph stiglitz, winner of the nobel prize in economics, is called "the price of inequality: how today's divided society endangers our future." professor stiglitz, as always, good to have you on the program and thanks for the book. >> nice to be here. next, glen hansard. stay with us. tavis: pleased to welcome glen hansard back to this program. the oscar-winning singer- songwriter also provided the music and the lyrics for the broadway adaptation of his film, "once." so last week, "once," as you know, took home eight tony awards including one for best musical. starting tomorrow, you can pick up a copy of his first ever solo project called "rhythm and repose" -- great title. here is the some of the video
for the song, "love don't leave me waiting." don't leave me waiting ♪ leave me ♪ ever, don't leave me guessing ♪ don't keep me ♪ ♪ show yourself tavis: could be mississippi, but where was that? >> that was in jamaica. tavis: jamaica, ok [laugh]. ok, i'll take jamaica. good to have you back. >> thanks, tavis. good to be here.
tavis: so the tony awards, i was trying to think, nine? eight out of nine? that's pretty good. >> yeah, it was pretty amazing. it was amazing. we were not even sure we got tickets for myself and marketa who were originally the guy and girl from the film. the day before, they say we got your tickets and, of course, we have to try to organize flights 'cause i was in ireland and marketa was in iceland. we sat in and it was just t most tavis: you're holding up that sign. so you got here the day before. >> yeah. tavis: wow. and what did you make of sitting in the audience and hearing "once" eight times? >> i mean, the path we took a long time ago, what "once" was as a film and how successful it was, which was so great for us that there was definitely a sort of a sense of passing on whatever torch we carried to the broadway folk. really, what was lovely about being there with them was that it was almost like a very clean experience.
all the awards were for those guys and we were just sitting there applauding them and the fact that it kept on winning. i had a funny moment afterwards. when i heard best musical which was the one everyone was kind of hoping for, i just had to duck out. i took 40 blocks in and i was singing that great song, "i am gonna take you, new york, i'll make it happen. i am on the caboose, i am drinking manhattan." i was just walking around the street going, "man, this town has been so good to us," you know, and just this country. we made this thing like five years ago in three weeks. it is one of those things that just has kind of kept going and it is a blessing. it is great. tavis: i am just laughing and thinking that you're walking around new york talking and singing to yourself for 40 blocks and, in typical new york fashion, nobody's saying anything to you. >> no, of course. tavis: kept walking and talking and singing. nobody stopped you or said a word. >> i got upset with this homeless guy i met. it is just one of those nights.
we ended up sitting together and he was talking about this amazing renaissance in this jazz radio station that he's tuned into. i was like what are you doing to me? he says, "you know, i don't even want to be out here tonight. my girl sent me out." so his girl sent him out to get some money, so i gave him whatever i had in my pocket. he was an amazing guy. tavis: it is one thing to celebrate the awards and i suspect any songwriter, any actor, when they hear their project called eight or nine times, can celebrate the victories, but did you like the play? did you like what they did with the work? >> well, i have to say that, when i first heard about like it was after the oscars and stuff that they had sold the rights, i have to say honestly i was kind of horrified at the idea. i thought it was gonna be an awful venture. i resisted it very much and was against it. then over time, they started getting really great people involved. enda walsh came on board, john tiffany, and a lot of the work that those had done certainly was non-musical, but it was also kind of dark, you know. i remember thinking, gee, these people might actually treat it well. i went and had a meeting with enda walsh and he was like, man, i haven't a clue what we're gonna do with it, but i'll tell
you, we're not gonna disrespect it. i had been to see a few broadway shows. we don't have a history in ireland of musical theater at all, so i knew nothing about what broadway really was. i have to say, the stuff that i saw, i was taken on the ride. i mean, i laughed when i was to laugh and the tears welled up when the tears were supposed to well. i mean, i went on the ride, but i was not crazy about it as an entertainment format. you know, i wasn't kind of crazy about it, but then what they did, i thought they just dealt with it very sensitively. that was my biggest fear that they were gonna ham it up and turn what we had originally done into something like "boring slowly. ' thankfully, they didn't. tavis: speaking of ireland, since you went there, i read a story. i didn't know this when you were last on the program, but is it true that you met bono when you were just a kid years ago
because his car had broken down? >> yeah. of course, bono's, of course, the most famous band in ireland. i remember dragging my scooter home. i had this scooter and i had the pixies which was one of my favorite bands at the time like written on the side of my scooter. i remember driving along. it was like 4:00 in the morning. i was coming back from my girlfriend's house and i saw bono pushing his car. of course, i pull in. there's no one on the road. it is like the dead of night. he was like, "can you give me a hand? " i was like, "no problem." i parked my scooter and i am pushing the car. he'd just run out of petrol and we pushed it to the garage, but we ended up having this great conversation. "you like the pixies? i was like, yeah. i was surprised he knew who the pixies were. i thought they were very much an underground band at the time, but, of course, they had even toured with u2 and he knew everything about music. i was really impressed by him. then it was only years later then that i guess we met each other again in the context of being in bands together. throughout the years, he's always been a really good guy and always remembered that night and always thanked me for helping him push the car.
he's a really sweet dude. tavis: so the frames must be getting pretty annoyed with you. you're taking a long time, a long detour to get back to doing a project with them. is it true that they're gonna back you up on the tour for this? >> they're on the tour with me, yeah. tavis: they're on the tour. cool. >> i made this record with a few jazz guys and a few guys in new york that i really wanted to make a record with. they're out here with me now. tavis: they're being very patient with you then? >> they've been very patient. they deserve a medal. tavis: so this is your first solo project? >> yeah. tavis: but you got the frames playing behind you? >> yeah, of course, yeah. what's lovely about this opportunity is we'll get to play songs together on tour and sound checks. that's really where songs happen is when you're just in that down moment with your mates and you're playing. so part of my logic was, one, these guys know me so well. i've known them for 20 years, so i can turn on a dime and head any different direction and those guys just know where to go. but secondly, i get to sit around and jam with them and we
get to sort of come up with stuff. tavis: if this were going to be and obviously it is your very first solo project, is this what you thought or hoped it would be? put another way, are you happy with it? >> very much, very much. you know, albums are a funny thing. they're not like an intellectual decision. it is a collection of your kind of musings. like it is a collection of your diary entries and you pick which one's gonna make the most sense together and you put out a record and you sort of live it. but i am very happy with some of the songs. i am very happy with all of the songs. it just feels like something i am happy to put out. really that's the best thing you can say. any record you make, if you can stand next to it and go, yep, that's me, i'll defend any song on there, then i think you're in good shape. tavis: and the title. i love the title, "rhythm and repose." >> thanks. i went to jamaica, like i said, and it was a very important time in my life. i've realized, you know, having
turned 40, that rest is just as important as work. in fact, it is equally as important. you know, i used to always think to take a bit of rest off when you can get it, which is how most people live. but i've realized that it is really, really important to, when you're resting, turn off the phone, get away from the computer, go out and hang out and play football with your mates or just get away from that world and then, when you're working, be fresh for it. it is been a big thing for me. tavis: i am finding as i get older that it is the rest that makes the work better. i mean, the best ideas, the creative, the innovative stuff, does not come to you when you're exhausted. >> absolutely. you know, when i was a kid waiting on the bus, i remember that was when i imagined my life. i imagined everything that i was gonna be when i grew up and i imagined all of these amazing journeys and amazing people i'd meet. of course, all of it has kind of come to fruition. nowadays, you look at a kid
waiting on a bus and he's in facebook or he's texting his mates. i sometimes wonder and worry for the imagination. i am like what's happening to our imagination? our imagination just needs space. it is all it needs, that moment where you just sort of stare into the distance where your brain gets to sort of somehow rise up. of course, we still have sleep which is great thing, but i sort of worry about the modern imagination. i hope that the world of the eye, this or that, does not sort of crush our own musings. tavis: i want to say before the 45 seconds here to play us out, since you brought your guitar with you, fair to say that this project is really about, to my ear at least, about relationships? >> yeah, very much. i mean, it is in the vernacular of a relationship, but often that relationship is between yourself and your people, yourself and your god, yourself and -- you know, it is not always just a woman, but this one is [laugh]. tavis: go for it. before you do that [laugh], the new project from glen hansard, as i said -- i really love the title -- is called "rhythm and
repose," his first solo project. you can catch him this summer. the frames are with him on this tour, so you'll have a great time checking him out. glen hansard, that said, good to see you again. >> you too. thank you. tavis: and take it away. >> thank you. been hesitating ♪ ♪ you've been hanging on for ♪at sign too long ♪ and lover, you've been leaving me waiting ♪ or whatdon't know why it is i've done ♪ don't leave me guessing ♪
>> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with allen and marily bergman. that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> the california endowment. and by contributions to your pbs station by viewers like you. thank you. >> be